Let’s start with the facts, or the fact actually: skiing is expensive. High tech equipment, accessories for every weather condition, ever increasing lift ticket prices, not to mention getting there, staying there and eating there, and it all adds up to some pretty pricey alpine fun. Yet we still do it. This is Austria after all.
So what can we do to continue our alpine addiction without breaking the bank?
The main question, of course, is it better to rent or buy ski gear? The main answer is that it depends. Let’s take a look at the three biggest investments in skiing - skis, ski boots and ski suits – and see where you stand on the rent or buy scale.
If you are a deeply passionate skier and do not hesitate to plunk down €800 and upwards on new ski gear every few seasons, then skip this section. Or better not. It used to be that only beginners rented skis because real skiers owned their own. Well, just like the myth about real men not eating quiche, it turns out that renting skis may even be something for avid alpine skiers. Let’s do some math.
Assuming a skier purchases a moderate pair of skis for €450 at the full retail price, and the skier goes on two one-week ski holidays a year, and keeps the skis for 5 years, then we have a clear answer to buy skis. At 6 ski-days per holiday times 5 years, price per ownership per ski week is just €45. Compared to renting skis, where even low-end skis start at €50 to 60 per week, it makes clear sense to buy. If the skier is hitting the slopes more frequently, then the calculation in favour of buying becomes even more convincing.
However the math gets slightly more complicated when additional costs like service, which is €25 to €60, is included. Then there is the transportation variable. If the skier drives to the slopes in a car suitable to carry skis, there is no price impact. But skiers who are traveling by air will pay at least €100 to get their boards to and from the holiday destination (taking a cat on board is cheaper). Tallying up with a more expensive ski, say €900, quickly dilutes the advantages of ownership. And as soon as the frequency of skiing reduces from 2 weeks to one week, the whole argument for ownership falls apart.
The price for renting skis for a week is usually about one fifth the cost of the purchase price. Hence a top-of-the-line pair of skis will cost €150 per ski week to rent, but the skier has the option to choose the newest state-of-the-art model every season. Intermediate skiers benefit as well. As you progress with your finesse on the slopes, you can choose the ski to go with your skill level. There are many online ski rental options so you can book the perfect ski prior to your holiday and pick them up at the resort (see: www.snowell.com).
Conclusion 1: For the average skier, renting is probably cheaper. If you want to buy however, be sure to consider how often the skis will be used and the real cost of ownership, including service, storage and transportation.
What is often not understood about ski boots is that they are the most important piece of skiing equipment you can buy … or rent. The fit and comfort of the ski boots hugely influence the fun of skiing as well as the performance of the skier. Tight boots that restrict circulation to the foot will soon become icy chambers of torture and loose boots will decrease your ability to respond to bumps and turns on the slope, leading to more falls, less fun and a higher risk of injury. The fit of the ski boot often determines whether first-time skiers become skiers at all. Take a look at the boots of the best skiers on the slopes compared to the boots of the wannabe-skiers sitting in the hut chugging Jägermeister as further evidence.
Prices for ski boots are not as steep as for skis but a good pair of boots will start at €250 and a great pair, customised and formed to the shape of your foot, will cost €800 (see: www.strolz.at). Ski boots have a long life span and should last a minimum of 5 years and usually much longer. Hence the avid skier will definitely be better off both financially and for reasons of fit and performance with buying a good boot.
Beginners will of course want to rent for €50 to 60 per week before deciding whether skiing is their great passion. As soon as a future on the slopes seems feasible however, it is advisable to buy.
Looking at the bigger picture, ski boots are clunky and heavy to transport, however they still fit in carry on luggage if you stuff the boots with socks and other small items. Hygiene is the real elephant in the room of ski boot rentals. Rental shops do little or nothing to sanitize the boots after each wear. Some skiers feel comfortable with a thick sock as protection against whatever lies within the boot, but remember, the boots will be on your feet for several hours a day and some dampness is inevitable. A tip for once-a-season skiers who will always rent boots is to go early in the season when the boots are new!
Conclusion 2: First-time skiers will want to rent but should still take time at the rental shop to make sure the boots fit well. Once skiing becomes an annual event, having your own boots is more comfortable, more economical and for what it’s worth, more hygienic.
Renting ski apparel is relatively new to the ski industry. Responding to very high prices for very good ski suits, the rental business has expanded from skis and ski boots to include ski apparel and accessories (see:www.skigala.com). The rent versus ownership debate for ski clothing is very similar to the discussion on skis. Hard-core skiers who are out there pounding the slopes for several weeks a season will want their own kit for reasons of both economy and practicality. According to a recent study by the Wiener Institute für Freizeit- und Tourismusforschung, however, just 4% of all Austrians ski more than one week per season. Hence this section is for the other 96%, the so-called destination skiers.
A decent ski jacket and pants retail at a minimum of €450 and anything up to €700 is still considered to be within the average range. Yes, you can buy for less, however the quality of the ski suit may be less than what you want and need in more extreme alpine weather situations. By comparison, renting a mid-range suit will cost about €130 per ski week and about €50 per week for kids. Hence you can own the same ski suit for 5 years or rent something new every year and roughly be at breakeven.
Again, there are variables to consider such as growing kids (or a growing midriff). As with skis, the advantage of renting ski apparel is that skiers can choose a new outfit every season. It doesn’t matter if you think fashion doesn’t matter, but it does matter to have good quality fabric and features that integrate the latest technology to keep you warm and dry. This is particularly important for children, who feel the extremes of temperature much fast than adults. A good ski suit can make a huge difference on the slopes and influence whether your child is enjoying their ski experience or collapsed on the snow bank in a puddle of icicle tears (we’ve all seen it). And unlike ski boots, ski suits are laundered after every rental, so you are getting something that is almost as good as new.
Storage savings is another reason that tips in favour of renting ski suits. And depending on where you ski and how you get there, a ski suit will tip your luggage allowance from carry on to checked baggage, which is roughly €25 each way.Outfits like SkiSuitRental.com deliver the ski apparel and accessories directly to your hotel, so that’s a nice convenience to reduce the hassle of the ski holiday.
Conclusion 3: For destination skiers who ski one week or one weekend per season, renting ski apparel is definitely the most cost-effective (and fashion conscious) option. For avid skiers, buy your own kit. If you are invited to one of the posh resorts for a weekend, you can always pimp up your style and rent for the occasion.
Ultimately, the cost of ski equipment on a per ski week basis will vary according to how frequently you ski and how you source your gear. It’s hard not to get caught up in the emotion of skiing and get yourself kitted out in top notch gear and fab threads. Before you take advantage of the ski sales however, consider the real cost of ownership including frequency of use, service, transportation, laundry and storage. Different skiers have different needs and there is an ideal solution for every type of skier. Just do the math.